Mar 25

“Power of Stars” reviewed by Astronomical Society of the Pacific

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific included the “Power of Stars” in its “Astronomy Beat” column during March. Astronomical Society of the Pacific “Astronomy Beat” review of “Power of Stars”.

The “Astronomy Beat” covers new and noteworthy new books on astronomy, and provides a good overview of the background of the book, with excerpts. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific has numerous publications which are widely read by astronomers, astronomy educators and the amateur astronomy community. The full review is available at the link below.

Astronomical Society of the Pacific “Astronomy Beat” review of “Power of Stars”

Mar 21

West Coast Winter Book Tour

West Coast Book Tour starting in November!

After a very successful New England Book tour, Dr. Penprase is giving a number of public talks across Southern California in the coming months. These talks will include local astronomical societies, science centers, and museums. Some of the events include a talk at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (November 11 at 7:00PM), The Phoenix Astronomical Society (January 5, 2012), and the Pomona Valley and Riverside Astronomical Societies (November 4, 2011, and November 12, 2011). Stay tuned for more events and contact me at if you want more information or would like to book a talk by Dr Penprase!

Jan 18

“Power of Stars” now available as a Google e-book!

In case you wanted a digital version of the Power of Stars, which can be read on your laptop computer, iPad, or Nook device, the Power of Stars is now available as an electronic book from Google Books. You can purchase the Power of Stars, and have digital versions of its 200 color figures, through the link below.

Google ebook link for \”Power of Stars\”

The lowest price for a hardcover version is from Amazon – you can use this Amazon link for “Power of Stars” to get a copy!

You can purchase "Power of Stars" using the Google Books! Great for iPad, laptops, or Nook!

Oct 05

Models of the Universe Across Cultures

“Cosmology is the study of the structure of the universe in its largest scales – it is an exploration of the structure of the Earth, planets, and stars and our place within this system. Through the centuries, in all continents, humans have developed world systems to describe the universe.

Their description draws from the world known to each civilization – and often their worlds are made of water, or ice, or fire, or dirt. The stars, planets, and sky play a special role in nearly all of the world systems, since the immense power of these celestial objects is apparent to nearly all cultures, regardless of their time and place on the Earth. Some cultures describe the universe with layers, or nested spheres, or with spirits living in mountains, depending on the terrain and the aesthetic sensibility of the culture.

Each cosmology attempts to define the world in terms of what is precious and what is unique to each culture. In constructing a cosmology, a civilization gives both a model of the universe and a mirror to better understand what it means to be human.”

Oct 05

The Human Experience of the Night Sky

“The essential element of archaeoastronomy, which binds us to our ancestors, is available to all of us each night. A clear, dark, starry night sky brings out intense feelings in even the most sophisticated city dweller. These feelings vary among individuals, but for most they are intense and connect us to something sublime and transcendent. The night sky calls to us and humans over the years have responded with their star tales, their monuments, their theories, and their observatories with gleaming polished glass and sophisticated instruments.

In early eras, the power of stars inspired tales of ancestors, their quest for food, the animals we lived with, and the delicate balance needed to maintain life. The stars taught us the way to live with each other and our environment. As our civilizations grew, the stars provided the basis for binding together hundreds, thousands, and now millions of us in commerce, in religion, in science, and also in war. This process began with setting the calendar, and each civilization from the world used the stars, the Moon, and the Sun to provide a tempo for the dance of its people as they planted crops, moved goods, and planned new ventures.

The process continued as writing empowered people to record over many centuries patterns of events which previously were disconnected – eclipses, comets, and the motions of planets all seemed to repeat, giving great power to the ruler or astronomer who could predict the inner workings of the mysterious clockwork that seemed to run the universe. Our response to the sky continued and evolved from ritual sacrifice to a quiet contemplation of the mysteries of the sky in which the most sophisticated tools of our species were arrayed to wrest the secrets of stars. Counts of stars and catalogs gave way to spectra, which unlocked the secrets of what the stars were made of and how far their light has traveled.

With our knowledge of the stars we better understand our Earth,  we realize that the stars and the Earth are made of the same elements forged in the early universe and in the cauldron of earlier generations of stars. These elements have found refuge in the dirt and rock of this small outpost of life at the edge of a great galaxy. The stars call to us and exert a power on us, perhaps since we are formed from them as all the atoms in our bodies come from inside a long-lost star. In archaeoastronomy we can combine our search for answers about the stars with a need to connect to the past – we can connect with the past lives of generations and civilizations long gone and even connect with the past of  our universe, which each moment arrives to us in the light of ever more distant stars.”

Oct 01

A History of World Astronomy and Cosmology

Welcome to the Power of Stars web site. This is the site for information related to the new archaeoastronomy book published by Springer Verlag entitled “The Power of Stars – How Celestial Observations have Shaped Civilization,” by Dr. Bryan E. Penprase of Pomona College. In the book, we explore the many ways in which ancient and modern civilization are shaped by the heavens. We explore sky lore, constellations, cosmologies, timekeeping, alignment of structures, and even relics of ancient traditions that survive to the modern day. The book also includes an exploration of modern cosmology at the end to enable a complete telling of how cultures from around the world (including our own) describe the universe around us.

This site provides a glimpse of some of the chapters in the book, and also gives a chance for questions from readers to be answered. In the “Contact” section you can send in your thoughts. If you are interested in booking an appearance by Dr. Penprase, please use the Contact section of the web site, or email Dr. Penprase directly at